Dr. Kathie Sorensen and Curt Coffman, Founding Partners, The Coffman Organization, Inc.Dr. Kathie Sorensen and Curt Coffman, Founding Partners
For The Coffman Organization, Inc., (TCO) the focus is always on differentiating what the best do differently and this includes the study of outstanding cultures, organizations, leaders and managers. From their measurement, to their actionable solutions, every focus at TCO is inspired by thestudy of human success. For more than 30 years,the founding partners have researched outstanding performance across industries, studying high performance culture, top performing managers, leaders and individual achievers.

“Leadership is about the vision, brand and strategy”, says Curt Coffman, the founding partner of TCO; “and executing on that vision is all about energy”, Coffman adds. The energy required to achieve the vision lies in the MicroCulture, small working groups led by managers who connect people to their talent and purpose.

High performance culture is where talented people connect to team and a manager that brings out the best in them.

Taking inspiration from their book, ‘Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch’ (CESFL), TCO created The NEXUS Experience which is focused on people within organizationsas owners of the culture.

“High performance in organizations begins with the individual and their connection to the work and the team” says Dr. Kathie Sorensen, founding partner, TCO. From the very inception of the NEXUS Experience, TCO knew that they had to engage each individual and help them discover their rightful role in creating a better workplace.

New survey technologies are catching leadership’s eye right now, the idea of instant feedback and slick dashboards are trending. “Speed is relevant,” says Dr. Sorensen, but cautions against models that send data up and solutions down. “Leadership can’t create culture for people, but must create it with people. Engaging people begins with recognizing they are owners of culture and the single most sustainable competitive advantage an organization can have.”

High performance culture varies more within organizations than between them.

Often surprisingly, at the same company, same products/services and job descriptions—one group is highly energized and another woefully disillusioned. “We call it who’s in your canoe? Imagine a canoe with your team sitting in it, each person holding their oars. The manager sets the direction and asks for oars in the water. What happens? Some jump right in – oars feverishly rowing; others with oars are still up in the air, waiting for others to commit. And a few actively disengaged, in the back of the canoe, oars actually fighting the forward momentum.

Are your team members paddling with you or are their oars in the air? Do your managers know how to harness the best energy from their teams and ensure oars in the water, rowing in the same direction?” asks Coffman, explaining that from the early research revealed in his best-selling book, “First Break All the Rules” – when it comes to high performance cultures - It’s about the manager.

Managers are the single most leverageable asset of aculture, because they are the catalysts that connect people to purpose. They are the bridge between local work groups MicroCultures and the vision, strategy and brand. Great managers are a tremendous asset to any organization. “People leave managers, more than they leave organizations, and top performers also leave because their talents aren’t being fully utilized. Great managers have the power to change all that,” states Coffman.

The Era of the Individual–How to Maximize Productive Energy

TCO has been devoting their work to helping clients maximize the energy within their organization; talent utilization means giving people the opportunity to do what they do best every day. “This is the era of the individual,” says Dr. Sorensen. “Never before in history have individuals had more opportunities to shape their work life to maximize their satisfaction, achievement and growth. Individual talent is a huge source of personal, renewable energy that transcends situations. Great managers and high-performance cultures know how to tap into that source and accelerate talent. An organization’s culture is a sustainable, strategic, highly competitive advantage, when its people are fully engaged.”

“Our research makes it clear. We, as human beings, are fundamentally unique—and when we get the role right for the person—we see amazing growth, satisfaction and accomplishment. That’s why it’s our sole focus as an organization – creating high performance cultures,” says Coffman. To do that, we start with the understanding that one size never fits all. Sure, there are categorizations we can assign by age groups and other demographics to lump people into a “type.” But no group name can ever perfectly describe an individual human being. Honestly, haven’t you always felt just a little bit “different” than those around you? “We ask everyone that question and have yet to meet the person who truly feels like unit #4,” says Dr. Sorensen. “The focus must be on the individual. If we get it right for each one of us – we get it right for all of us.”

Our research makes it clear- we are fundamentally unique—and when we get the role right for the person—we see amazing growth, satisfaction and accomplishment


Coffman University

“We all have talent, a natural expression of our energy and passion. Our unique talents are instrumental to our growth, creativity, and happiness,” states Coffman. Recently, the company created The Coffman University (TCU), to release talent potential in the workplace and bring learning to people no matter where they work or how big their training budget.

That’s what led to the design and creation of TCU’s latest programming, “The Power of You”. A process that helps an individual define and own their strengths to maximize their performance and contribution to the culture. “Every person should understand and own their ‘TalentSet.’ Start leveraging the natural energy of talent you bring to the culture. Release your talent envy, discover your optimal partners and live your best life at work and home. Then, help those you care about do the same.” mentions Coffman.

One of Coffman’s long-time clients has been widely recognized for their high-performance culture for more than a decade. This company had long recognized that selecting people with talents that resonate with their culture and team members would be critical to their continued growth. Their entire organization participated in Coffman Organization’s TalentSet research. Today, when they interview potential hires, they help candidates experience what it’s like to work in their organization by noting TalentSet themes. These themes within a culture help demonstrate what the people believe in and how they partner to make things happen.

“We think of it as finding your best fit - your CultureFit. Will the culture bring out the best in you? What do you need to succeed and grow? Who are your optimal partners within the culture?” says Dr. Sorensen.

Through “The Power of You” program, every person has the opportunity to gain clarity about their own unique TalentSet. “It’s part of our mission to encourage people to define and own their strengths, needs and the cultures to which they belong” says Dr. Sorensen.

Many of these lessons are not new. Great leaders and managers have always set people up for success, by understanding who they are.

The tragic thing is that some people can wait a lifetime for managers to notice their talent. That’s what TCO and TCU aim to change. Starting with a belief in talent and a relentless commitment to helping people experience success, to own the cultures to which they belong, at home, school, work—everywhere that they have the chance to shine as a unique individual.

A piece of advice? Coffman answers:

• Don’t wait for your manager to ask. Share your gifts. Ask for what you need to be successful.

• A language and process, like Coffman’s “TalentSet”, speeds the self-discovery and enhances the team’s growth.

• And finally, we need each other. We have to give up the focus on where we are weak, and lean into where are strong, while finding our optimal partners in work and in life.

High performance culture means—people doing what they do best- connected to partners who trust and support them to achieve amazing results for themselves, their clients, family and communities.